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Certificates of Merit

Certificates of Merit

Being a Professional Land Surveyor is a very rewarding career. Surveyors spend much of their time reading, researching, and cataloging history. Old maps, plats, deeds, patents, and field notes create a special connection between the past and present. After the research is done, we get to use technology that was once science fiction – like laser scanning and drones – which are now science fact.

Since we have all of these unique skills, and are licensed and regulated by our home states, the Public assumes that “all land surveyors are created equal.” This assumption that every surveyor will perform a proper survey is simply not true. A few surveyors will regularly not meet minimum standards while other surveyors may simply make mistakes.

In about half the states, before a property owner can file a civil suit against a surveyor, that plaintiff must obtain a certificate of merit. This is different from a land title or easement. At times the suit could be about a riparian boundary. Other times, it may be concerning property disputes or land title disputes. The purpose of the certificate of merit is to limit or eliminate frivolous lawsuits against professionals such as doctors, nurses, engineers, architects, and land surveyors.

A certificate of merit is essentially an expert report by a land surveyor that (1) describes the standard of care owed by a hypothetical Professional Surveyor to his client(s) based on state statutory law, state case law, and land surveying texts, (2) explains what work the current Surveyor-Defendant did for the client and the methods used to complete such survey, and (3) provides an expert opinion as to whether the surveyor-defendant was professionally negligent.

Passing judgment on a fellow land surveyor is unpleasant. What gives me the right to critique the work of a fellow professional? Instead, my philosophy is to set a benchmark standard based on statutory law, state case law, and land surveying texts. Then, instead of comparing the current surveyor to what I found have done personally, I compare that surveyor against the texts. This provides a fair, objective certificate of merit.

If you need a certificate of merit in your civil case, schedule a no-obligation phone consult below.

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